History of Moorlands Hotel, Exmoor, North Devon
Moorlands was built in the late 1800s by a gentleman by the name of Colonel Benjamin Greene Lake (1839-1909). He was a London solicitor from the Priory Orpington, who bought the Wooda Bay estates from Sir Nicholas William Throckmorton (a Baronet from Warwickshire) in 1885.
Colonel Lake had wonderful plans for the then named Wooda Bay, wishing to develop it into another Lynton and Lynmouth. He proceeded to convert the principal house into the Wooda Bay Hotel (now Martinhoe Manor) and from 1888 he planned and built most of the properties now standing including the Glen Hotel and Stables (now Woody Bay Hotel and Coach House). During 1893-1895 he constructed a sixteen – foot wide road from Hunters Inn to Wooda Bay over the common to Martinhoe Cross. In 1896 he cut a new road running past the Glen Hotel to join the cliff road and he forged the coach road to Hunters Inn.
In 1895 Lady Newnes cut the first sod in Lynton to commence the building of the Lynton to Barnstaple Railway. In the same year Colonel Lake agreed to allow the directors of the railway to locate the station at Martinhoe Cross on his land free of cost. In exchange Colonel Lake would be allowed to site a junction at the now renamed Wooda Bay Station for his branch line to access the bay, This was to connect to a cliff railway similar to the one in operation between Lynton and Lynmouth, which was to descend down to a pier that was also started in this year with the first steamer arriving in 1897. Originally planned to be one hundred yards long it was reduced to eighty yards due to financial problems. A teashop and swimming pool were also constructed. Unfortunately the pier was devastated by violent storms in 1899 and 1900 and was finally demolished by the locals in 1902 with only the pier head now remaining.
Unfortunately when Colonel Lake purchased the Wooda Bay estates he mortgaged the lands for £25,000 to settle the debt he had incurred by speculating in Kent Coal shares. He was an adventurous schemer and rather careless with other people’s money mortgaging one property to finance developments and to pay for another, and offsetting losses by borrowing further money. He also misappropriated trust funds (of which he was a trustee) and his clients’ money. Colonel Lake blamed his cousin George Edward Lake for causing their firm Lake, Beaumont and Lake to mount up debts and for not disclosing them.
In October 1900 the London bankruptcy court revealed that Benjamin Lake was over £200,000 in dept. Outwardly respected, Lake was, at the time of his trial in January 1901, chairman of the Law Society and a Devon Justice of the Peace and because of this the North Devon Journal – Herald’s report of the case said that his “failure caused a great sensation”. He maintained that he was unaware of the losses of his firm over the years but nonetheless he was found guilty on most counts. Colonel Lake was sentenced to twelve years in prison. He died in 1909 presumably on remission at his son’s home in Wandsworth London.
After Colonel Lakes’ bankruptcy the Wooda Bay estates (approaching 2000 acres) were auctioned in 1900. A local brewery Starkey Knight and Ford purchased the Station Hotel and surrounding farm land and put out a lease. William and Susan Trickey from Broadhembury took this up. The Trickey’s and their children, including the youngest Tom, arrived in early 1901 to run the hotel which included a bar, in what is now room two, and farmed the surrounding land. During this time in 1905 Royalty visited the station when Princess Christian and Princess Victoria left the train and took to a carriage for a tour of North Devon.
Tom Trickey after schooling at Martinhoe and Bratton Fleming began working on the L&B in June 1908. He stayed working for them and subsequently Southern Railway until his retirement after forty-nine years’ service in 1957. In later years he assisted Gordon Brown when he co-authored his book ‘The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway’. Tom died aged 94 in 1987. (photo)
In July 1908 William died and was buried at Martinhoe Church leaving Susan as proprietress. In 1919 one of their daughters Annie Eliza married a local lad Frank William Edwards (his brother Jess marrying her sister Lotty). Frank presumably took over the running of the hotel and farm at this time. He also went on to run a coal merchants business located in one of the sheds at the station, employing a man called Charley Tossel to deliver the coal by horse and cart and then later by lorry. Frank also owned one of the first cars in the area, which he used as ‘private hire’ taking train passengers to and from Woody Bay and other local sights, and also pub patrons to and from their homes. Susan Trickey died in 1931 while spending the winter away at her sister’s home and was brought home and buried at Martinhoe church with her husband and son ‘Will’, who having been exempted from World War I because he was the only male left to farm the property, had later died in 1918 of tuberculosis.
The railway closed in 1935 and presumably this is when the name Moorlands was adopted. Frank died in 1946 and his son Frank Martyn took over, marrying a local girl Millie Rawle in 1955. One of their staff was a man named Arthur who previously had worked as a coachman to Sir George Newnes.
In 1965/6 the Whitbread Breweries took over Starkey Knight and Ford and put Moorlands up for sale. Frank and Millie bought it and eventually sold it in 1969 to two ladies by the name of Rogers. The building remained untouched until a local builder purchasing it in 1979, sold off the surrounding farmland and converted the hotel into self-catering holiday apartments. Moorlands was sold again to a Mr and Mrs Young in 1986 and again in 1992.
Tom Martyn Trickey
Tom was born at Pitney Farm, Broadhembury, a small village just off the main Cullompton/ Honiton road in Devon. He went to Broadhembury School until he was nine years old. Then, in 1901, the family moved to Station Hotel (now Moorlands). From January 1902 until March 1905 (age 9-12), Tom attended Martinhoe School, which was a three mile walk across the moors. Tom and his older sister, Annie (Nance), would journey across the fields using the hedges for shelter on their way to school. Sometimes arriving soaking wet or snow covered and having to stay like that all day. They had to carry their meals with them since there were no school dinners or vending machines in those days. Sometimes Tom would ‘piggy-back’ a smaller boy to school when the going got tough. From May 1905 until April 1906 (age 13-14), Tom attended Bratton Fleming School. He went to this school because there was a very good teacher there, Mr Baker, whom his parents thought would benefit him. He travelled to and from Bratton Fleming each day on the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway train from Woody Bay Station, which was located less than 100 yards from Station Hotel. Growing up in a hotel with a variety of guests arriving and departing by way of the train station must have made quite an impression to young Tom. With Woody Bay Station so close by, he would have seen and heard the trains going up and down the line several times a day. His love for the railway probably started during this period of his life.
On June 10, 1908, at age of 16, Tom began working for the L&B Railway at the Blackmoor Gate Station as a Porter. One of his duties was to look after the hot air engine that was situated in the stone base of the water tower (part of which still exists) and which was used to pump water up into the water tank. He took over Frank Frost’s job when that man became a Guard. During this time he lodged at Westlandpound Farm, which was near Blackmoor Gate. In July 1913, Oliver Mills got the Stationmasters job at Woody Bay Station and Tom got Oliver’s old post as a Checker/ Warehouseman at Lynton Station. In this job he was responsible for recording all Goods Traffic in and out of Lynton Station. On January 29, 1914, while he was working and living in Lynton, Tom married Dorothy May Harris.
The L&B Company agreed to be taken over by the London & South Western Railway in 1922. In 1923, the L&SWR became part of the Southern Railway. In 1926/1927 Tom was living at 3 Sunnyside Terrace in Lynton when evidence suggests he was graded as a Working Foreman. He was described as a Checker (i.e. still Warehouseman) in the Clerk’s Office at Lynton Station in the Southern Railway Staff Magazine of May 1934. It was also in 1934 that Tom was transferred to Barnstaple Junction as a Guard or Checker. The L&B Railway closed in 1935 with the last train running on Sunday September 29. The Southern Railway Magazine of November 1938 records Tom moving from Checker at Barnstaple Junction to Goods Working Foreman at Bideford. While working at Bideford during World War II, Tom finally found a job on the railways that he didn’t like. On some weekends he had to fill in as a Guard for trains carrying troops back to Braunton after a night out on the town. These “Boozer Trains”, as Tom called them, could become quite rowdy. The same magazine of May/June 1944 records his transfer from Bideford as a Goods Working Foreman to Barnstaple Junction as a Goods Guard. The Guard’s job was to ensure that the train kept to time. He travelled at the rear of the train in the guard’s Van and was responsible for all of the passengers/goods traveling by train. At each stop he had to shout the well- known “All Aboard”, check that all the doors were safely closed before leaving, that the couplings on the carriages were secure and only when he blew his whistle and waved his green flag did the engine driver take the train on its way. (Tom did not deal with tickets – that was the Ticket Collectors job). After 49 years of service, at the age of 65, Tom retired from the railways on November 5, 1957.